Northern Velebit National Park is also known as Sjeverni Velebit in Croatian. This National Park is the newest addition to the national park list of Croatia. The national park is a part of the Velebit Mountain, just like Paklenica National Park. Northern Velebit is mostly known for the great hiking opportunities. The Velebit Mountain is listed on the UNESCO list of biosphere reserves. This means the national park is recognized for its large diversity of animals, plants, and fungus species.
Zavižan Weather Station in Velebit National Park
Zavižan Weather Station in Velebit National Park
What is also very peculiar about this National Park is that it is the division between 2 weather climates: the continental and the Mediterranean climate. This causes very unpredictable weather patterns. There is a weather station called Zavižan Weather Station and that is located beneath the Vučjak peak. This is the highest weather station in Croatia, but also the one that has to endure a lot of extreme weather conditions.
The wider area of Zavižan has the largest annual rainfall in Croatia with an average of 50% of extremely wet days. It also has a large number of fog days and lightning is common.
In the Zavižan area, the snow lingers for longer than 7 months causing the observers to be cut off from the rest of the world. It won’t surprise you that the weather station has the lowest temperature in the whole of Croatia.
Another phenomenon that’s common in this area, is the bora. This is a very strong easterly wind that can even reach a speed up to 185 km/h. The bora is what we experienced firsthand when we visited Velebit National Park. If you would like to know more about the extreme weather conditions, please check out the detailed climate information on the official website.
When to Visit Northern Velebit National Park
There are 2 entrances to Velebit National Park. Depending on where you would like to go, you can take the corresponding entrance. The first entrance, and the main entrance, is Babić Siča. This entrance is located 1300m above sea level and is located to the north. If you would like to visit the Velebit Botanical Garden and Zavižan Mountain Hut, this is the entrance you are looking for. We took this entrance as we wanted to hike around the Zavižan area.
We parked our car at the parking lot here. I must say that the last part of the road to the parking of Zavižan Mountain Hut was a little rough. It was quite steep and had a lot of bumps and pits in it. We didn’t have an SUV, we only had a really small car, so it was pretty nerve-racking for us. But it is a parking lot and every year a lot of people drive there. Since we managed to get there with our small car, you should be fine driving there.
The second entrance (Alan) is located in the south of the park. You’d best take this entrance if you want to visit Štirovača (an old forest) or Alan.
As we have already mentioned, the weather in Velebit can be quite unpredictable and harsh. That’s why the opening times of the park can change and can be different every year. On average the park is open between May and October, but depending on the weather, it could close earlier or later. Of course, these are all safety measures to protect us. So best to check if the park is opened on the official website.
Tickets Northern Velebit National Park
Basic adult tickets for Velebit National Park cost 45 kn (€6 / $7.30) and are valid for 3 days. There is also a ticket combo that includes access to the visitor center for 70 kn (€9.30 / $11.35). Next to that they also have offers for groups and families. For the full details, check out the price list on the official site of the park.
What to do in Northern Velebit National Park
The park is a great choice for hikers and bikers. Apart from this, the area is also known for its beautiful, deep caves. So speleologists love this area as there are many of these interesting caves close to each other. The park is also a paradise for geologists. They even issued a geological guide. Unfortunately, the guide is only available in Croatian. You can also find a lot of the geology information in English on the official website.
Hiking in Northern Velebit National Park
This park is a great destination for everyone who loves hiking. The Premužićeva Trail is one of the best ways to explore Velebit National Park. This trail is 57 kilometers long. It starts at Zavižan Mountain Hut and you can follow it all the way to Oštarijska vrata, passing by Veliki Alan on your way. There are some hiking trails available on the official site.
Our Itinerary to Northern Velebit National Park
We started our hike from the parking lot at Zavižan Mountain Hut. We immediately noticed a small chapel right across the parking lot. After we parked our car, we walked towards the chapel Kapelica sv. Antuna. The door was open and welcomed us in to admire the beauty of the little chapel.
After our visit to the chapel, we decided to look for signposts or markings to help us guide the way to the Premužićeva Trail. When we walked towards the direction of the Zavižan Mountain Hut, we suddenly felt the wind hitting us hard. It was the infamous bora. A very strong wind that can gain a pretty high speed. We decided to hike to the top of the Zavižanska Kosa. This is a mountain located next to the Zavižan Mountain Hut.
When we started to climb, I felt the winds even more badly. It was incredible how much energy it took to just keep your body straight. I also had to put on my sunglasses because my contact lenses were going to fly away and dry out with this strong wind. We climbed over rocks and saw the red-white markings that we needed to follow.
When we got to the Zavižanska Kosa, we could enjoy the spectacular view of the sea and the surrounding islands. It was gorgeous, but because of the wind, we didn’t stay in the same place for too long. We walked on the ridge in the direction of Balinovac until we reached a pile of rocks we had to climb. You know what that means! Adventure mode: ON!
We had a snack right before our climb as we wanted to make sure we had enough energy in our bodies.
We started to climb the rocks and really enjoyed the climb. Nothing more fun than a full-body workout when you’ve been walking in the sharp cold wind for a while. We had to climb all the way to the top of Balinovac. When we got to the top, the wind was even stronger. Up there, we had to keep low or the wind would just blow us off the top.
We descended from the top, but this descent was really steep and quite slippery. We had to be really careful. Because we had been so focused on the not falling part, we didn’t even notice the wind had almost disappeared. The mountain we just conquered, was a great shield for the wind.
We hiked onwards in the direction of the Veliki Zavižan. This was going to be our final mountain top of the day. Unfortunately, the weather had changed a little and the top was completely covered in fog. We didn’t see it as a value add to go to this top because we would only see fog around us, so we decided to skip the top and head for the botanical garden instead.
Botanical Garden / Velebitski Botanički Vrt
Before reaching the botanical garden, we had to do some climbing first. We hiked through a forest and the road was pretty steep and slippery. When we crossed a few small ridges, we got to a forest that is also called a fairy tale forest. The forest is indeed very pretty with lots of tree trunks in different shapes.
After crossing this fairy tale forest, we got to the botanical garden. The botanical garden is always a great way to find out what sorts of plants live on Velebit. We were really curious to see which plants could survive the harsh circumstances here in Velebit. A lot of the plants there were either hiding or dead. That’s a bit of a shame, but it could be that we were there at the wrong time. So if anyone does have a nice picture of the botanical garden, please let us know!
Where to Stay?
We rented an apartment in the town of Senj. It was about an hour’s drive to the apartment. The accommodation was very cheap, especially since it was located close to the sea. We thought we could go for a swim there, but the wind begged to differ. It was way too cold to go swimming now.
In the Northern Velebit National Park, there aren’t any supermarkets, so you will need to stack up for food when you visit it. The only place where you could stay or have something to eat in the park is the Zavižan Mountain Hut. If you want to spend the night here, I would advise reserving your spot. In the Alan Mountain Hut (second entrance), you can also spend the night. Apart from these 2 mountain huts, there are no rooms, apartments, or hotels in the park.